18 soldiers killed in Manipur ambush

PM, Defence Minister condemn attack, NSCN(K) ultras came from Myanmar

Our Bureau

Imphal/Guwahati/New Delhi, June 4: At least 18 soldiers were killed and 15 others injured on Thursday when militants ambushed their convoy in Manipur's Chandel district, officials said, terming it the worst such attack on the Indian Army in over a decade.

Prime Minister rendra Modi and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, among others, condemned the attack.

According to Indian Army sources, the team that was attacked belonged to 6 Dogra Regiment and was an administrative convoy moving out of its location.

The attack occurred between Paralong and Charong villages, around 8.30 a.m.

The militants used Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and rocket-propelled gredes (RPGs) and also opened heavy fire at the four-vehicle convoy.

Most of the bodies were charred, the official said. Those injured were airlifted, while a reinforcement party was rushed to the spot for combing operations to b the militants.

"One of the vehicles - probably the first vehicle in the convoy - which was hit first by the RPG caught fire immediately," a defence spokesman said. The security forces retaliated but the militants maged to escape, he said.

In Guwahati, defence spokesman Lt Col Suneet Newton said 18 soldiers have been killed and 15 others injured. "Eight injured were evacuated to an army hospital in Dimakong, while seven were airlifted to Guwahati," he said.

Intelligence officials said the NSCN (K), which has a substantial presence in the district and had recently abrogated its ceasefire agreement with the Indian government, was behind the attack.

"According to our information, the ambush was carried out by a group led by NSCN(K) 'kilonser' Starson. The group is based on the Myanmar side. It fled to the neighboroung country after the ambush," a source in the Union Home Ministry said.

Although there are several militant outfits in Manipur, most of them operate under the shadow of the NSCN (K), particularly in ga-domited areas like Chandel.

Highly placed sources said advanced ture of weapons used in the attack is also a matter of concern.

According to reports, the area has been on boil after a woman was allegedly killed by troopers of the paramilitary Assam Rifles. Reports also said there was a shutdown in Chandel over the incident.

Prime Minister rendra Modi said the attack is very "distressing".

"Today's mindless attack in Manipur is very distressing. I bow to each and every soldier who has sacrificed his life for the tion," Modi wrote on his Twitter account.

Defence Minister Parrikar, Home Minister Rajth Singh, Indian Army chief General Dalbir Singh and tiol Security Advisor Ajit Doval met in the tiol capital on Thursday to evaluate the situation post the attack.

The defence minister termed it a "cowardly act" and promised action.

Parrikar said "those who committed the cowardly act will be brought to book", adding that the army will continue to work towards bringing peace and normalcy to Manipur.

He also conveyed "deepest condolence" to the bereaved families of the soldiers who lost their lives.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, while condemning the incident, said the government is collecting details on the attack.

"Information on the attack is being collected, after that we would be able the say what exactly happened," Rijiju told reporters.

"It is a very sad incident," he added.

Insiders, meanwhile, said it was a major intelligence failure.

According to officials this is the worst attack on the Indian Army in over a decade in which so many personnel had lost their lives.

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